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Antiwar protesters still have to shout to be heard over Washington's din

Published January 17, 2007

100 hours in Congress

WASHINGTON - There was no PA system on the granite terrace outside the Capitol, so the activists at Tuesday's news conference had to talk over the sound of their banners snapping in the cold north wind.

And over the piercing whoooop, whoooop of a fire alarm at the office building next door. And the screaming police cars it brought, and the hundreds of chatty congressional staffers who evacuated to the street a few feet away. And the jackhammer gnawing at a chunk of sidewalk.

Meanwhile, the guest of honor, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the peacenik's perpetual candidate for president, was delayed by ice and snow in Cleveland.

No matter. The antiwar movement has always had to shout to be heard. Even with the Democrats now in charge of Congress.

"We're here because our brothers are dying while our politicians squabble," Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, 22, who served in western Iraq, told the crowd. "If you are funding a war that puts our troops in harm's way, you are not supporting the troops."

Madden is co-founder of Appeal for Redress, which has collected signatures of 1,130 active duty, Reserve and National Guard troops who want the new Democratic leaders of Congress to end the war by withholding funding, a tactic used in Vietnam.

Now, at just hour 24 in their vaunted 100-hour agenda, it is also a source of contention among the House Democrats, as antiwar stalwarts square off against those who worry about veering too far left of the mainstream, and the leadership casts for consensus.

Soon, House leaders are expected to vote on a nonbinding resolution on President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, which many Democrats oppose.

But as the House Progressive Caucus prepares to file a bill requiring the president to bring the troops home in six months, Kucinich's stand-in on Tuesday, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said it was time for his party to back up their criticism with action.

"If the president is not going to do the right thing, then Congress is going to have to do the right thing," he said.

But forcing an end to the war by cutting funding? McGovern acknowledged it would be a tough sell, but said they have to try.

"Things aren't going to change if those of us who think the war is wrong continue to remain silent," he said. "Otherwise, it becomes our war."

Just then Kucinich arrived, a blur in a dark overcoat. He was an hour late, but no matter.

"Congress can stop the war!" he said to cheers.

Kucinich promised to file the troops' petition with the House clerk, but Madden and some others wanted to take it a step further. They ducked into the Cannon House Office Building, then marched down the hall to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.

Her receptionists were taken aback by the activists and the cameras that trailed them. A staffer offered to take the petition to Pelosi's main office at the Capitol later. No one else was available to meet with them.

Come back another time, she said. With an appointment.

Wes Allison can be reached at or 202463-0577.




[Last modified January 17, 2007, 05:46:42]

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